running blog


A tale of two 20’s

I am now officially celebrating the start of my pre marathon taper.  The worst is over, I’ve reached the peak of my training and (hopefully) the hard work is done so I’ve just got to keep my head on, taper my training wisely, eat and rest right  (the best bit) and then turn up on the big day!  I spent Sunday afternoon celebrating the start of my taper after the second of my 20 mile runs.  On the sofa, feet up with tea, hot cross buns and then a glass or two of wine and a huge dinner.

So what about these 20 mile races? One week apart, one hot and hilly, the other, endless laps with a scattering of hail stones.

Both were organised marathon training races. An essential part of marathon training for me without which I would have struggled to run that distance. Entrance fees well spent.  I find any run over 2 hours a tedious slog and can just about muster the will power to run any further than that every few weeks when training.  Fortunately in both these runs I wasn’t alone as plenty of other crazy folk were out plodding the same path wearing race numbers.  People overtook, I had others to overtake and could look back and still see people behind me. Safety from complete boredom in numbers!

The first was the Surrey Spitfire 20.  A regular fixture, well organised race. Nice scenery of the surrey hills starting from an interesting base at Dunsford Aerodrome. However it was hot and there were great big (for softy Londoners like me), hills!  I did not have a great run. I find I do not like 2 lapped races.  The first lap feels long enough…. and then you have to do it ALL again Ugh!  I ran the first lap just slower than target pace (to take account of the heat and hills.) Fine, great.  On lap 2 I decided I don’t like races on race tracks either. The first part of each lap might have been flat but 2  miles on hot black tarmac seeing a line of runners going on forever in front of you! Headphones are banned for this race, understandably, because much of it is on open country roads with traffic, and at times the quiet, hearing only birds and runners feet hitting the Tarmac was energy sapping. I weakened early and walked a hill at mile 13 and that set the pattern for the second half.  At one point walking uphill on a busy road I harboured thoughts about mugging a passing cyclist for his bike!

The good, (yes it wasn’t all bad) was a great sense of community. Without music, passing runners actually talked and encouraged each other with marathon chat and dreams of ice-cold Pimms!  I have to thank one club runner who I chatted to at mile 18 and kept me going to the end before I sent her off for a sprint to the line to beat a fellow club member!

I did not enjoy the run, my  mantra for tough times (counting one, two, three, four) became expletive, expletive, expletive, expletive! I won’t meet hills at the London marathon but I suppose they’ve made me stronger and practise racing in the heat might prove useful for marathon day. Not least to remind me the sunburn hurt more the next day than my legs. I didn’t feel great that I’d had to walk so much but was happy to finish in 3.25.

This Sunday it was the Hyde Park 20. A newer, smaller, well organised, marathon training run with 16 mile and (for the very speedy) a 24 option. The race is made up of 4 mile laps so it was 5 times round for me. I thought I knew Hyde Park well, I certainty do now.

A cold start where I needed a lightweight jacket.  Then my sunglasses came on and off over the run as we went through the seasons and as I removed my jacket we got to hail. During the first lap I felt as though it was going to be a tough run but I settled into it and got stronger. I had music which helped and found that multiple shorter laps were better than two long ones.  Each time I reached a point I thought about only having to run that bit 4, 3 or 2 more times etc.  By the time my wondering mind came back to the thought I’d be practically back there again. Some fun young Marshalls, dancing to keep warm, also kept my spirits up as I said hello each time I passed.

I did think I was dead at mile 5 when I was overtaken by Elvis but began to doubt it when I overtook him back at mile 13!  It was only going past the start for the last time at the start of lap 5 that I started to flag and the relatively flat course developed hills. My pace dropped over the final 4 miles but I was very happy not to have walked apart from one or two steps through the water stops during the second half to gulp water.  A good 20 mile run, I was delighted to beat last week finishing in 3.19.

Surrey Spitfire gave me respect for the distance and strength to face a tough marathon.  I learned that sometimes target paces have to be relaxed for the conditions and not to beat myself up and give in, but to dig deep and keep going as best I can (plans b, c and d). Hyde Park restored my confidence in myself because I ran the whole way and felt stronger. I even managed to wobble home (through the park) on my bicycle afterwards!

Note to self for marathon. Don’t be an idiot, don’t be a wimp!


Cures for taper tantrums*

  • Mud.
  • Hills
  • Sunshine
  • Fresh air
  • Sea views
  • What new shoes?

5.29 miles in an hour. New shoes felt great, straight from the box, a bit slippy in the mud but I wasn’t worried about speed. I could still breath ‘running’ up the hills and best of all my Achilles felt fine!

* and many other types of tantrum.


Taper tantrums

Sorry there’s no write-up about the Great South Run yesterday, I’m afraid to report that I was a No Show. I made the sensible decision earlier last week not to run it. I’ve had ongoing Achilles niggles for the past few weeks and I knew that I would not take it easy but end up trying to beat last years time and 10 miles at decent pace on hard tarmac would not be good for my Achilles nor leave me in fresh enough shape to run Rutland Water Marathon at the weekend.

Apart from that one sensible decision, not to race but to stick to easier paced taper runs on soft surfaces, the rest of my taper so far has been full of tantrums! Well not real tantrums but sometimes I wish I could have!

My first tantrum was about shoes.  I know, less than two weeks before a marathon this isn’t ideal but the seed was sown when both sport massage therapist and BMF instructor suggested my shoes are worn out.  I’ve also been reading far too much about injuries and running shoes and have self diagnosed that the probable cause of my pain was overdoing it in low drop minimalist shoes. (Particularly my two half marathons in 2 weeks) which has put my tendon under strain.  Whilst I mid foot strike most of the time, when my legs are tired my form slips and I heel strike, particularly in ‘long run shuffle mode’ putting impact on my legs when wearing shoes with less cushion in the heel.

So I then I read that more of a heel lift would ease the strain on the Achilles so pulled out my Mizuno Wave Creations with a more cushion and a bigger heel toe drop and wore them to BMF.  They seemed good,  my ankle was less sore, however with orthotics they are now about half a size too small and my toes touch the end. NO way can I run a marathon in them and keep my toes!  Panic stations!  So I’ve faffed and panicked trying to get hold of a pair a half-size bigger and wondered how I can wear them in and wasted days staying in for next day deliveries which don’t arrive.

Tantrum 2 was my last longer run before Rutland instead of GSR. I aimed for about 8 to 10 miles at easy pace and set out on a new bit of cycle path on Sunday lunchtime.  I was over dressed, the cycle path was too long straight and boring, I was huffing and puffing, I hated the shoes I was running in which felt like I was running in treacle, my head wasn’t in it and my ankle was beginning to ache and burn so I rang my husband to collect me after 5 1/2 miles.  I came home in a very despondent mood complaining about everything and anything.

Tantum 3 my husband has developed a stinking cold manflu.  I am staying as far away as possible, obsessively washing my hands every 5 minutes, opening all the windows, overdosing on vitamin C and zinc and eating as many anti-oxidants that I can, and Jaffa cakes.

Don’t worry, as we get closer, sanity is returning.  I have to keep reminding myself I’ve made it round 24 miles OK.  I have several pairs of running shoes to return to the shops and will no doubt end up wearing one of the pairs I’ve trained in. And if I catch the cold or my Achilles pulls me up there are plenty of other marathons.